Floaters are a common ocular condition which form as a consequence of aging changes in the vitreous. Although in most patients the symptoms are minimal, they can cause significant impairment in vision-related quality of life in a small population of patients. Recently there has been an increase in awareness of the visual disability caused by floaters, and the evidence-base for treatment of this condition using small-gauge vitrectomy has increased. In this review, we define the term 'floaters' as symptomatic vitreous opacities (SVO). We suggest a classification dependent on the presence or absence of posterior vitreous detachment and discuss their pathogenesis and natural history. We review their impact on patients' quality of life related to visual function. We review the psychological factors that may have a role in some patients who appear to be affected by SVO to the extent that they pursue all options including surgery with all its attendant risks. We summarise the available evidence-base of treatment options available for SVO with special emphasis on the safety and efficacy of vitrectomy for this condition.
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